5S for Therapeutic Use

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Running a hospital: Surprising use of Lean

Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, is a blogger and advocate for Lean healthcare. In this post, he forwards a story about someone using lean methods to help organize an Alzheimer's patient's home for them. Paul reached out to me to ask if I'd heard of similar stories…. my response is below, which will also show up as a comment on his blog later, I'm sure:

That's a great story. It sounds like they are referring to the “5S” methodology of Lean for workplace organization. Labeling the locations of items is just one aspect of that approach — glad to hear it could be helpful for a patient.

I think that's the key… using the tool in a way that solves a problem.

Normally, the 5S labeling in a workplace (nursing station, stock room, etc.) isn't done because employees “forget” where things are. It's done to help make sure items are always put back or restocked to the same, consistent location. Same method, slightly different purpose (but again, I think that's the key… making sure the purpose it being met).

The fuller 5S methodology would ask “which items are used most frequently and in what point of use?” so the most frequently used items/supplies are kept right at hand. That's probably more useful for reducing the amount of unnecessary walking a nurse (or other staff member) does in a shift… might not have an exact application for the patient at home.

So, long story short, I've never heard of an example like that, but was glad to read about it.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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